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Tension between Apology & Republic

 
 
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 12:15 am
Does anyone else feel there is a contradiction between the claim in Apology that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and the fact that in Republic, most citizens aren't encouraged to 'examine' their lives - that is, to participate in philosophy?

So what does this mean (assuming this contradiction is legitimate and not just an apparent one) about Plato - that he changed his mind from Apology to Republic? Or maybe it's that Plato really reported Socrates' words in Apology but merely used him as a mouthpiece for his (Plato's) own ideas in Republic. That's what I think is the explanation.

I also think it raises certain questions about the ideal state - does it mean it's they discourage most citizens from having a life worth living? Perhaps it's about striking a balance - if certain kinds of questioning/introspection are harmful to the "non-philosophers", then SHOULD the state discourage such questioning, and as a result, encourage lives that aren't worth living?
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Pangloss
 
  2  
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 01:19 am
@Rachel phil,
Rachel;102562 wrote:
Or maybe it's that Plato really reported Socrates' words in Apology but merely used him as a mouthpiece for his (Plato's) own ideas in Republic. That's what I think is the explanation.


Yes, this.

Rachel;102562 wrote:
I also think it raises certain questions about the ideal state - does it mean it's they discourage most citizens from having a life worth living? Perhaps it's about striking a balance - if certain kinds of questioning/introspection are harmful to the "non-philosophers", then SHOULD the state discourage such questioning, and as a result, encourage lives that aren't worth living?


Well, Plato never had anything to say about the large slave population of Athens, and Aristotle later even declared that laborers were not to be considered citizens. There was a clear line to be drawn between full citizens who should become philosophers, and the unclean masses. Plato supported a lot of censorship in his 'city' for a reason...

Anyway, the 'just city in speech' found in the Republic is a means to an end, and if you really want Plato's political philosophy, you need to read his Laws. In the Republic, 'the city is the man writ large', and the dialogue's goal is to investigate the nature of the soul by looking at the city. For this reason, I don't think that you can really take the arguments found in this dialogue to be Plato's serious attempt at political philosophy...you have to figure out how they fit in with his initial goal of discovering the human soul.
Rachel phil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 10:19 am
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;102563 wrote:

Well, Plato never had anything to say about the large slave population of Athens, and Aristotle later even declared that laborers were not to be considered citizens. There was a clear line to be drawn between full citizens who should become philosophers, and the unclean masses. Plato supported a lot of censorship in his 'city' for a reason...

Anyway, the 'just city in speech' found in the Republic is a means to an end, and if you really want Plato's political philosophy, you need to read his Laws. In the Republic, 'the city is the man writ large', and the dialogue's goal is to investigate the nature of the soul by looking at the city. For this reason, I don't think that you can really take the arguments found in this dialogue to be Plato's serious attempt at political philosophy...you have to figure out how they fit in with his initial goal of discovering the human soul.


I understand that the 'city' is simply Plato's way of exploring the nature of justice, but in Book 5 he makes it clear that he doesn't want it to be impossible for his theoretical city to come into existence.

So even though his goal at large is an investigation of human nature/justice/anything else, I think there are still legitimate questions about what throwing out Socrates' claim that "the unexamined life is not worth living" indicates about the 'city'. Is that what you were addressing when you mentioned a disregard for the 'unclean masses'? That Plato's city really doesn't have a problem with encouraging most people to lead unexamined (and so, worthless) lives? Sorry if I'm misunderstanding anything.
Pangloss
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Nov, 2009 12:03 pm
@Rachel phil,
Rachel;102616 wrote:
Is that what you were addressing when you mentioned a disregard for the 'unclean masses'? That Plato's city really doesn't have a problem with encouraging most people to lead unexamined (and so, worthless) lives? Sorry if I'm misunderstanding anything.


The 'myth of the metals' makes it quite clear that only certain people have what it takes to become philosopher-kings, and they would be in charge of the city. He says that everyone should do what they are best at; for some, it is philosophizing, for others, it is laboring.

But I don't think this directly conflicts with Socrates' statement that 'the unexamined life is not worth living', and I don't think it means that even slaves or laborers cannot lead examined lives. Everyone has the ability, maybe the need, to examine their lives critically, and to determine what it means, how they should best live, how are they to be happy, whether or not their actions are good, and so forth. In Plato's city, it's just that the chosen philosopher-kings are the ones who make this their career, as they are the most gifted, virtuous, and trained philosophers in the city; but the rest do not then lead unexamined lives...

Also, Socrates' statement can be seen as a pointed attack against Athens' honor culture, which Socrates was highly critical of. Plato's city though holds wisdom/reason as the greatest good, so Socrates' statement from the Apology could be taken out of context when applied to Plato's just City, where reason and examination are already supposed to rule.

And when looking at the city as the soul, you could make an interpretation where the soul has certain parts (the 'tripartite' soul): the appetites, the spirited, and the rational parts...that are represented by different groups of people in the city fulfilling their function. Reason should tie them all together and direct or lead them, so that the soul can achieve harmony with truth.
0 Replies
 
Mad Mike
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:58 pm
@Rachel phil,
Rachel phil wrote:

Does anyone else feel there is a contradiction between the claim in Apology that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and the fact that in Republic, most citizens aren't encouraged to 'examine' their lives - that is, to participate in philosophy?

So what does this mean (assuming this contradiction is legitimate and not just an apparent one) about Plato - that he changed his mind from Apology to Republic? Or maybe it's that Plato really reported Socrates' words in Apology but merely used him as a mouthpiece for his (Plato's) own ideas in Republic. That's what I think is the explanation.

I also think it raises certain questions about the ideal state - does it mean it's they discourage most citizens from having a life worth living? Perhaps it's about striking a balance - if certain kinds of questioning/introspection are harmful to the "non-philosophers", then SHOULD the state discourage such questioning, and as a result, encourage lives that aren't worth living?


My interpretation of Plato's dialogues in general is that they mustn't be taken literally, and this is perhaps more clearly necessary regarding the Republic than any other dialogue. And I think Plato lets us know he doesn't mean things literally when he advocates things like taking children away from their families, women performing gymnastics along with the men, legislators writing the laws in verse and singing them to the assembly.

Plato's real concern here is not the ideal state but the ideal state of mind; not how to govern a polis, but how to govern oneself. As Gadamer put it, the Republic is a "call to philosophy": the only way a society can be free of conflict is if everyone becomes a philosopher-king and lives justly. For Plato, a just society, as Gadamer says, is one in which "a Socrates is not the exception but the rule."
0 Replies
 
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:52 pm
Socrates was not a philosopher-king. Let's suppose that if and only if one lives an examined life, then they would become a philosopher-king. Then perhaps Socrates felt that his life was unexamined, and so voluntarily underwent the death penalty (as he had the opportunity to escape in the Crito, and, based on the Apology at least, it seems that the Death penalty was contrived by his enemies). This would still show Socrates as dying for his philosophical position. It would just be a reinterpretation of what that position is.
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 09:07 pm
If there is a tension, it is between Plato's portrayal of Sokrates and his use of him as a mouthpiece for his own statement of his matured philosophy. Like Jesus, Sokrates never (to our knowledge) put his thinking into written form, and our knowledge of the Attic gadfly rests on the recollections of the general Xenophon and primarily upon certain dialogues of Plato, one of which is the Apology which was written in the lifetime of many Athenians who were either present at his trial or were personally knowledgeable about Sokrates's way of thinking, so presumably if Plato strayed from an accurate account, someone would have spoken up.

So great was Sokrates' influence on Plato (indeed, on subsequent philosophy itself) that he figures in almost all of the dialogues (even in Laws, it is obvious that "the Athenian" is Plato-Sokrates), but it is generally understood that Plato is speaking and not merely reporting his teacher's theories. Thus, while the Republic ostensibly begins with a discussion about the correct definition of justice, its primary object was the exploration of the many different implications of Plato's own theory of Forms, constituting true knowledge, in politics, religion, education---to name only a few areas.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 12:45 am
@Rachel phil,
I think that Plato thought that it was only those made of gold, not those made of brass, and certainly not lead, who should, or even could, examine their lives. The Republic is a high class-structured society. And, besides, Plato knew full well that for some people, it is the examined life that is not worth living.
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